Friday, June 22, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Using Historical Newspapers in the Classroom

New-York Tribune. (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924, November 24, 1918, Page 4, Image 26. (Image provided by Library of Congress, Washington, DC)

Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers serves as a phenomenal resource for teachers and students. This database of American newspapers from includes digitized copies of hundreds of newspapers across the US from 1836-1922. Students can search by state, newspaper, and year. The keyword search, however, is a little tricky because of the abundance of search results, and students will most likely need a bit of guidance to narrow their searches. An archivist friend of mine suggested the importance of “pre-search” to help narrow the searches, enabling students to search for more specific matches. For example, in looking to find stories regarding anticipation and reaction to the Treaty of Versailles, Versailles was too broad of a search. Including dates and names successfully narrowed the results.  

Teachers and students can use this resource in a variety of ways. The History Connected Wiki has several resources to guide students’ inquiry with historical newspapers. One of the documents is a historical newspaper scavenger hunt, which asks students to find examples of different types of advertisements (always a favorite for students --and teachers!), news stories that address the “5W” questions, as well as essential primary source analysis questions regarding source information and bias. Another resource History Connected provides to use alongside Chronicling America is list of writing prompts, including writing to the editor, making a personal diary entry, to comparing the coverage of one news event in two different newspapers. History Connected also has a document from Tennessee State Library and Archives, titled, “Reading Historical Newspaper Articles: A Process” that gives students guiding questions that can apply to most articles.

Using an entire section of a historical newspapers -as opposed to just an article-gives students a sense of historical time and place, as all the surrounding stories and advertisements speak to the culture of the time, and that people, “just like them,” experienced these events with excitement, horror, and wonder. These events were in the headlines before they made it to students’ history books. These events were reality to an older generation, and the experience these resources provide, bring students into that reality.

1 comment:

  1. Pamela, thanks for the great overview of this important resource. Similar to your work with articles on the Treaty of Versailles, I have found it to be very helpful especially for articles that look at U.S. and World issues and events. As you indicate, many students have a strong interest in historical ephemera such as newspapers which even in digitized form can really help make history more tangible.